Partnership Morning Future
Guiding Trend 31 July Jul 2019 0749 31 July 2019

Corporate volunteerism, a stepping stone for business

61% of companies now promote it. One out of three companies is an SME. Partnerships with non-profit organizations are becoming increasingly popular. To prove it, two studies promoted by the Sodalitas Foundation. The next step? Social entrepreneurship

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Volunteering and business today play the same game. Six out of ten companies in Italy build with non-profit organizations partnerships with a strategic value based on the donation of paid time and which see the company as a “motor” of solidarity. The purpose? To increase the reputation of the company and have motivated and satisfied employees. Half of the Third Sector organizations (55%) are looking for this alliance with the productive world.

«These are projects that allow those who build them and participate to respond promptly and effectively to the needs of the community and people, to be more credible and visible to their stakeholders, to feed their network of relationships», pointed out Alessandro Beda, Managing Director of the Sodalitas Foundation, the non-profit organizations of Assolombarda, which shed light on this new trend with two research projects based on multiple-choice questionnaires conducted in collaboration with Gfk Italia. The reports investigate both the point of view of companies and that of non-profit organizations.

How widespread are these initiatives? From transport to cosmetics, from publishing to food & beverage, the army of work-hour volunteers involves 61% of large and small companies, both Italian and foreign, belonging to different sectors of the economy.

In this form the phenomenon was born and has experienced the greatest fortunes in the United States, from where it has contaminated the entire Anglo-Saxon world and Europe. In Italy, the branches of multinational groups have initially adopted it, but in recent years the formula has also extended to large local companies and, more recently, to SMEs.

One out of 3 companies is an SME: 36% of companies have up to 250 employees, of which 19% have less than 50 employees. Corporate volunteering - in which a company encourages, supports or organizes the active and concrete participation of its personnel in the life of the local community or in support of non-profit organizations, during working hours - is a virtuous journey, very widespread in the Anglo-Saxon world, which is becoming an increasingly important reality also in our country.

“The two researches offer an overview of this activity in our country, with challenges and opportunities for all the stakeholders involved” asserts Beda.

Two motivational areas emerge from the analysis of the business purposes, one outward and one inward. The aims addressed to the outside focus in particular on three factors: helping to support projects of non-profit organizations or other organizations in aid of the community (64%), developing social networks in the target territory to bring long-term value (34%) and promoting their own visibility and consolidate corporate reputation (49%).

Those aimed internally focus on encouraging a motivated and cohesive workforce (47%) and developing the skills of employees, although this is still marginal (14%).

The benefits analysis strongly, and in line with the objectives, marks the importance of the internal dimension: 60% of the responding companies in fact underlines a greater involvement of employees, 49% the improvement of the company climate, 38 % report better team work and 28% employee retention. As for the main benefits achieved by the company towards the outside, the research highlights the improvement of the company's reputation, mentioned by 57% of respondents, and the advancement of relations in the community (49%).

“A report that has confirmed how building a relationship between the Third Sector entity and companies characterized by mutual openness and understanding is the starting and arrival point of a successful project", Alessandro Beda underlined.

On the non-profit front, 56% of the organizations surveyed are active in these projects. “This is a very significant percentage that confirms a high potential for developing such programs in Italy”, Paolo Anselmi, vice president of GfK Italia, who conducted the surveys, stresses. “The aims of this analysis were, in addition to investigating the level of diffusion and the relevance attributed to corporate volunteering, to highlight its aims and benefits and exploring the methods, criticalities and success factors”.

The research was divided into two phases: quantitative and qualitative. The quantification “was conducted by sending an online self-filling questionnaire to 850 organizations, of which 196 responded,” Anselmi explains, “while the quality level was measured thanks to two in-depth focus groups, with a total of 16 organizations.”

Why do non-profit organizations set up voluntary partnerships with profit organizations? “There are three main purposes: raising awareness and promoting one's own mission (53%), starting an ongoing relationship with partner companies (51%) and receiving financial contributions and additional services (50%)”, the vice president explains. As for the actual return benefits Anselmi explains: “In the first place the awareness and promotion of the mission of the entity (64%), the concrete realization of a specific activity (53%) and the promotion of the culture of volunteering in society (46%)”. At the heart of corporate volunteering are co-planning and relationships.

“Building a relationship is the beginning and the end of a successful project. At the heart of an effective program there must be a meeting characterized by an attitude of openness towards the other”, Anselmi concludes. “Co-planning is the goal to aim for: both the for-profit and the social organization have special skills that are useful and valuable, and each one can give something to the other with its specificity, a joint relationship and an exchange of resources in both directions to obtain mutual benefits, aiming at the creation of shared social value”.

Virtuous examples

  1. Prysmian Group
    During the annual Staff Meeting, Prysmian Italia accepted the commitment of parent company Prysmian Group to contribute to sustainable development with a “corporate volunteering" initiative, benefiting the non-profit association “Rise Against Hunger”: an international non-profit organization, committed to fighting hunger in the world through the distribution of food and other humanitarian aid to populations in a serious state of emergency. After a first part of the working day spent sharing and discussing the results achieved in Italy and the performance of the South Europe Region, 110 Prysmian employees, with the help of volunteers from the non-profit organization, assembled a few simple ingredients, to create 20,000 meals to feed children and supporting schooling programs .
  2. Fondazione Snam
    In 2018, Snam and the Snam Foundation started “Volunteer Days”, during which over three hundred employees of the company supported non-profit organizations operating throughout Italy. For a whole week they were present in thirty Italian cities - from Milan to Rome, from Bologna to Naples - working closely with more than twenty non-profit organizations, carrying out about fifty different programs, from assisting disadvantaged people to supporting fair trade associations. The volunteering days are part of a broader corporate volunteering program, through which the Snam Foundation allows company employees to put forward charitable activities to support or to create new initiatives with social and economic value for the communities in which Snam operates. One of these is the “Corvetto Adottami” initiative, a project launched as part of a collaboration with Fondazione Cariplo aimed at developing urban regeneration projects and combating poverty in the Milan area. Within this initiative, the Snam Foundation works with various entities in the Corvetto network, including the La Strada Cooperative, to strengthen aggregation centers and support the third sector bodies active in the area, promoting social entrepreneurship and initiatives to combat school dropout rates and poverty.
  3. Kpmg
    “Make a Difference Day” is the Kpmg Network volunteer campaign in Italy, which started in 2008. It gives its over 4,500 employees the chance to spend time paid by KPMG in volunteer activities for local communities. From the first edition to date, it has sponsored over 200 specific projects in partnership with as many non-profit organizations and has seen the voluntary participation of over 6,500 people, including employees and partners. In 2010, the collaboration with ANT, the National Cancer Association that mainly deals with providing free home assistance to cancer patients and carrying out prevention campaigns, started. Initially developed exclusively with fundraising activities, it underwent a real breakthrough in 2014 when the “Campagna di promozione della salute e del benessere in azienda (Campaign for the promotion of health and well-being in the company)" for secondary prevention was launched. The project is developed with informative seminars on various topics (hereditary diseases, autoimmune diseases, physiotherapy, parenting), days for blood and bone marrow donation, first aid and participation to the "ANT Melanoma Project" which provides constant checks-ups that can photograph any lesions and keep them monitored over time through a non-invasive technique. Since its launch, 4 Network offices have been involved, going from 170 checkups in the first edition to 432 checkups for the 2019 edition, identifying some critical cases and allowing for them to be caught in time without negative implications for those involved.

From corporate volunteering to social entrepreneurship

Corporate volunteering is a win-win phenomenon, with great results and margins for growth. It is on the basis of this scientific evidence that the Sodalitas Foundation has decided to launch "Social Master Class", a free training course for social entrepreneurship, aimed at Third Sector entities, and organized with the direct involvement of various companies: Hogan Lovells, KPMG, QVC Italia, Snam, UBI Banca.

7 theme based workshops (from decison making to social innovation, from business planning to social impact assessment, from fundraising to sustainable finance), 25 classroom hours and exercises with two focus areas: context awareness and strength of the organization and necessary basic equipment. This is how a series of meetings will be held from the end of September 2019 to January 2020 and will be lead by experts from the companies involved, with the testimony of some important non-profit realities.

Social entrepreneurship, which is the natural consequence of the hybridization between profit and non-profit, is a decisive challenge both for the Third Sector, which needs to reasses itself in the face of new needs and the scarcity of public resources, but also for companies, which are responding to new customers who are increasingly attentive to the impact of the products and services they purchase. The heart of the Profit - Non Profit collaboration on social issues”, concluded Alessandro Beda," is directing the activity of the Third Sector towards a horizon that combines the provision of social benefits and their economic sustainability and making a qualitative leap forward in terms responsibility to the country's economic layout".

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